The BEST Free Dispersed Camping in Florida (10+ Best Sites)

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Florida is known for a lot of things-Disney, beaches, and glitzy cities to name a few-but camping usually doesn’t make the list. That’s a shame because Florida is filled with amazing wilderness and incredible places to spend a night under the stars. Whether you’re into boating, paddling, hiking, hunting, or just relaxing at the campsite, there are beautiful camping opportunities waiting for you to explore throughout the state. Even better, you can find tons of excellent free camping options if you know where to look.

In this post, we’ll cover all the basics of free and dispersed camping in Florida, including where to find campsites, what to bring, and important rules and regulations. We’ll also share our top ten favorite free camping areas in the Sunshine State.

Let’s get started.

Florida Dispersed Camping Guide

Find Your Next Dispersed Campsite

Learn how to find the best campsite locations BEFORE you head out. No more showing up to crowded sites with all the good spots taken!

Easily identify camping areas
Find free camping on public land
Use offline apps to locate sites
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The Basics

The following sections cover the basic information you’ll need prior to heading out on your dispersed camping trip. This includes the various public lands in Florida that allow dispersed camping, what to bring, how to minimize your impact, and more.

This is the essential information before you head out!

Where is Dispersed Camping Allowed in Florida?

The primary two places where you’ll find dispersed camping in Florida are in its National Forests and Water Management Districts (WMD’s). Generally speaking dispersed camping is permitted throughout National Forests unless otherwise noted. Dispersed camping isn’t typically allowed wherever you want in WMD’s, but there are excellent free primitive camping areas in most of them.

Find additional details on dispersed camping in National Forests and camping in Water Management Districts.

US Forest Service Dispersed Camping in Florida (USFS)

There are three National Forests in Florida: Apalachicola, Osceola and Ocala. Apalachicola is located in the panhandle near Tallahassee, Ocala is in central Florida just north of Orlando, and Osceola is near the Georgia border west of Jacksonville. All of these forests offer great dispersed camping opportunities, as well as opportunities for other recreation, including hiking, fishing, boating, and hunting.

These National Forests should be your first stop when looking for dispersed camping in Florida.

The map below shows where each of Florida’s National Forests is located:

Map of Florida's National Forests.
National Forests in Florida. Map courtesy of USFS.

Water Management District Free Camping

Florida is home to dozens of recreation areas managed by its five Water Management Districts (WMD’s). These recreation areas are located all throughout the state, and many have free campgrounds. These campgrounds tend to be pretty primitive, although most have a portable toilet and access to non-potable water.

It’s important to note that you need to make a reservation or obtain a Special Use License (depending on the area) to camp in any of the WMD areas. Reservations and licenses are always free, and the process is quick and easy to do online. Many of the WMD areas are gated and locked, and you’ll need to code provided with your reservation to access them. It’s also common for the ranger or camp host to check for reservations/licenses so be sure to print it or take a screenshot before heading out.

You can learn more about each WMD below and you can find a map of all districts here.

Man sitting outside a tent drinking coffee

How to Find Free Dispersed Camping in Florida

Finding a good dispersed campsite in Florida isn’t too difficult with a little knowledge of where to look. There are numerous resources available from online apps, USFS resources, and of course this guide! You’ll also want to be prepared to navigate forest service roads and read USFS maps.

When searching for a good campsite ourselves, we prefer to use a combination of several online apps/websites along with publicly available USFS.

Our favorite resources are below:

  • Freecampsites.net – Our go to resource for finding free camping in the US. Simply enter your desired location and filter through the results.
  • The Dyrt – An app that let’s you filter for free and dispersed campsites.
  • Campendium – A website and app that allows you to see user reviews for campsites and campgrounds across the country.

Check out our Dispersed Camping App guide here.

While these apps and websites are a good starting place for finding dispersed campsites in Florida, we always cross reference the information with public agencies maps and resources. The best resource for this is often reaching out directly to the relevant USFS Ranger District or Water Management office in the area you’d like to camp to inquire on camping locations.

Dispersed Camping Rules & Regulations

One of our favorite things about dispersed camping is the lack of permits, reservations, and other requirements you’ll often find at developed campgrounds. However, there are some basic guidelines you’ll need to adhere to.

It is best to check current regulations with the relevant USFS or WMD office, but you should plan on adhering to the following as outlined by the USFS:

  • Do not camp in areas near trailheads, picnic areas, or developed campgrounds.
  • Keep your campsite small.
  • Use existing sites and fire rings when available.
  • Pick a site where vegetation is absent.
  • Do not camp within 200 feet of a water source.
  • Dispersed camping is generally limited to 14 days within any continuous 30 day period.
  • Only have a campfire if it is permitted, and always be sure it is completely extinguished.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles – more on that below!

Additionally, you can find a complete list of rules for camping in Water Management Districts here. A few important highlights include:

  • Camping requires a free reservation or Special Use License
  • Reservations must be made no later than one day before the start of the reservation
  • No more than two reservations at a time per family group

Download Our FREE Dispersed Camping Cheat Sheet

Our free printable cheat sheet outlines how to find the perfect dispersed campsite for your next trip.

Leave No Trace Principles & Dispersed Camping

One of the most important considerations when dispersed camping in Florida is to follow Leave No Trace principles. This will minimize your impact and ensure your campsite can be enjoyed by future visitors. Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping:

  • Plan Ahead & Prepare: Have an idea of where you’d like to camp and always be sure you are camping in an area that permits dispersed camping.
  • Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces: Never camp on fragile ground or create a new campsite.
  • Dispose of waste properly: Pack out all of your trash and bury human waste away from water sources. Ideally, carry out human waste or use a portable toilet.
  • Leave what you find: Never take anything from your campsite. Other than trash of course!
  • Minimize campfire impacts: Never create new fire rings and only have fires if permitted.
  • Respect Wildlife: Properly store food at all times and be aware of the area’s wildlife.
  • Be considerate of Other Visitors: Pack out your trash, don’t be loud, and leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.

You can read more about the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping here.

What to Bring

Many of the dispersed campsites you’ll find in Florida are remote and lack any and all services. As such, you’ll need to come prepared to be self-sufficient and not expect to rely on the amenities often found at developed campgrounds.

While we’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs,  below are some of our favorite items specifically for dispersed camping in Florida:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – Most of the camping areas included in this guide do not have dependable water access. As such, a portable water container is essential.
  • Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping in the Florida heat. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Canopy – Whether you’re facing blazing sunshine or heavy rain, this will allow you to enjoy your time outside comfortably.
  • Camp Toilet – It’s important to dispose of your waste properly and this can be tricky in some of the dispersed camping locations in Florida. A portable toilet is a comfortable and convenient option.
  • GPS App – This is the best way to navigate in the backcountry and if you download your base map ahead of time, you don’t need cell service to use it. Get 20% off the Gaia GPS App (our favorite app, hands down!) using this link.
  • Traction Mats – It’s a good idea to have a few of these in your vehicle in case you encounter mud or sand on the road.
  • Bug Spray – Mosquitos, flies, and gnats are all common in Florida’s backcountry, especially in the summer months. Good insect repellent is a lifesaver!
Dispersed Camping Checklist

Our dispersed camping checklist has everything you need.

Want to know the essentials for your next camping trip?

Our dispersed camping checklist has all the camping essentials plus specific items for dispersed camping.

The Best Free Dispersed Camping in Florida

Now for the fun part! You should now be familiar with the what, where, and how of dispersed camping in Florida and it’s time to share some of our favorite campsites in the state. The section below includes our top 10 Florida dispersed camping areas, in no particular order.

In addition, the Florida Dispersed Camping Map below shows all of the campsite locations, with detailed descriptions following.

Looking to find more dispersed campsites? Check out The Dyrt PRO to get campsite reviews, offline maps, and the best map layers for finding public dispersed camping!

Our Top Camping App – The Dyrt PRO

The Dyrt PRO

Looking to find more free, dispersed camping?

The Dyrt PRO is our favorite resource for planning your trip. Use the custom map layers to find public land, download offline maps, and navigate to your perfect dispersed campsite. Highly recommended!

Magnolia Landing

Restrooms: No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
 Quiet
Map

If you’re looking for a true wilderness camping experience, Magnolia Landing is a great option. This primitive camping area is located in Apalachicola National Forest, in Florida’s panhandle. It’s less than 90 minutes from Tallahassee, but you’ll feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of civilization.

Magnolia Landing is mainly used as a hunt camp during general gun season, but can be enjoyed other times of the year as well. It makes a great base camp for small game hunting and fishing in the New River. You won’t find any amenities at Magnolia Landing, so be sure to come prepared and pack out everything you bring in. There are plenty of level, clear sites, although the area can get swampy after heavy rains.

The nearest town, Sumatra, is about 20 minutes away. There, you’ll find a gas pump, a small grocery store, and a restaurant.

The New River with trees on either side, near Magnolia Landing Florida.
The New River near Magnolia Landing dispersed camping area. Photo courtesy of USFS.

DuPuis Campground

Restrooms: Flush toilets
Water: 
Yes
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

DuPuis Campground really has the best of both worlds. On one hand, it’s free and quiet like dispersed camping, but on the other hand you’ll have access to amenities like flush toilets and warm showers. The DuPuis Management Area covers over 21,000 acres of pines, ponds, and marshes less than an hour inland from West Palm Beach. There are miles of beautiful hiking and equestrian trails, plus fishing and seasonal hunting opportunities. The dark skies are great for stargazing.

Free camping is available at the equestrian campground, which is split into equestrian and non-equestrian areas. If you don’t have a horse with you, you must camp in the non-equestrian area. Campers don’t need to set up in designated sites, but there are some sites with picnic tables and fire rings. The area has plenty of level and grassy sites and enough room to accommodate big rigs (but no hookups).

While it’s free to camp at the DuPuis Campground, you’ll need to obtain a no-cost Special Use License in advance. This can be done through the easy online application system. Print or write down your confirmation information and bring it with you when camping. All of the entrances are gated and locked, but you will receive the code to the padlocks with your Special Use License.

Lake Panasoffkee

Restrooms: Flush toilets
Water: 
Non-potable only
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

Lake Panasoffkee is another excellent free camping area that offers handy amenities while maintaining a primitive feel. The Lake Panasoffkee Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located in central Florida, less than an hour northwest of Orlando. The area boasts many miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, plus fantastic birdwatching. Fishing is available in Little Jones Creek or in Lake Panasoffkee (you’ll need to leave the WMA to access the lake), and seasonal hunting is possible.

The camping area has space for equestrians and non-equestrians in a big, grassy field. There are plenty of sites with fire pits and picnic tables, but you can set up anywhere. Big rigs will have no issues here, as there is plenty of room and sites are level.

As with all of Florida’s Management Areas, you’ll need to reserve a free permit prior to camping at Lake Panasoffkee. Reservations can be made through this easy online application. Although you’ll need to reserve a permit for those dates, you do not need to reserve a specific campsite. It’s a good idea to print and/or screenshot your reservation confirmation and bring it with you.

Dead River Landing Recreation Area

Restrooms: Portable toilets
Water: 
No
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

If you want a remote camping experience while still having access to some amenities, Dead River Landing might just be your new favorite spot. This primitive campground is part of the Dead River Landing Recreation Area, which is managed by the Northwest Florida Water Management Area. It’s located in the Panhandle, just an hour from Panama City. Access to the Florida Trail is close by and there are great fishing and paddling opportunities on the Choctawhatchee River.

The Dead River Landing Campground has 16 grassy sites, 8 that can accommodate RVs and trailers and 8 that are designated tent-only. Each site has a picnic table, grill, and fire ring. The area has a covered picnic site, portable toilets, a playground, and a concrete boat ramp.

Although it is free to camp at Dead River Landing, you’ll need to reserve a site ahead of time. Reservations can be made online and you can use the site diagram on the website to choose your preferred site.

Oak Hammock Primitive Campground

Restrooms: Portable toilets
Water: 
Non-potable only
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

Situated within the beautiful Potts Preserve, the Oak Hammock Primitive Campground is a fabulous free camping destination 90 minutes north of Tampa. The 4,100 acre preserve has over 20 miles of hiking trails, 9 miles of equestrian trails, and year-round fishing, frogging, and birding opportunities.

There are several camping areas located throughout the preserve, including backcountry and equestrian sites. However, our favorite area for primitive, dispersed-style camping is at the Oak Hammock Primitive Campground. This camping area consists of a large grassy field, with both sun and shade available. There are some fire pits available and portable toilets nearby.

You’ll need to make a reservation prior to camping in Potts Preserve. You can do this for free online through the Southwest Florida Water Management Area. After making your reservation, you’ll receive a code to the gate lock in order to be able to access the preserve.

Seventeen Mile Hunt Camp

Restrooms: Portable toilets (seasonal)
Water: 
No
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

This is a great dispersed camping option in Osceola National Forest. It is primarily used as a hunt camp, but it’s also popular with tent campers and boondockers looking for a quiet and free place to spend a few nights. Besides small game hunting, you won’t find much to do in the immediate area around Seventeen Mile Hunt Camp, but hiking can be found in the nearby Big Gum Swamp Wilderness and there are a couple of towns (Sanderson and Lake City) that are each just twenty minutes away.

Campsites in Seventeen Mile Hunt Camp are relatively private and some are large enough to fit multiple tents or an RV. However, RVs should use caution when driving in on the rugged road, and everyone should think twice before attempting it when it’s muddy. The camping area is close to a highway, but road noise tends to be minimal. Cell service is spotty at best.

Davenport Landing

Restrooms: No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
 Busy
Map

Full disclosure, Davenport Landing gets mixed reviews for dispersed camping. This small camping area, located in Ocala National Forest an hour southwest of St. Augustine, is set in a lush forest near the Ocklawaha River. The unique Davenport Landing Trail is close by, which takes hikers through lush forest to a 19th century steamboat port. While some campers report great experiences here, others have complained of noise, crowds, and trash.

There are just three primitive sites at Davenport landing, each with a maximum occupancy of five people. Sites are spacious and well-shaded. Although there is room for small to medium sized RVs, it can be pretty challenging to get your larger RV or trailer back to the camping area. Not only is the road very rugged and often muddy or sandy, but low hanging branches can be a hazard for higher profile vehicles. There’s not much cell service back here, so it’s a great place to go if you want to disconnect for a few days. It’s important to note that there is a four-day stay limit at Davenport Landing.

Pine Creek Landing

Restrooms: No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

Pine Creek Landing (sometimes called “Piney Creek”) is a beautiful free camping area on the Ochlockonee River in Apalachicola National Forest. It’s used as a hunt camp during general gun season, but it’s also a fantastic spot for anglers, canoers, kayakers, and boaters. If the boat ramp hasn’t been repaired by the time you camp there, be assured that there are several other boat launches in the nearby area.

There are a handful of sites at Pine Creek Landing. Sites are level, grassy, and shaded by pine trees. Each site has a fire ring. The road to access the camping area is pretty sandy, but tends to be well-packed and is typically accessible for all vehicles. RV’s should have plenty of space here, but be advised that there is no cell service. This is the perfect place to relax, unwind, and enjoy the river.

A boat launch area on the bank of the Ochlockonee River at Pine Creek Landing.

Lake Mary Dispersed Area/Trout Pond Primitive Campground

Restrooms: No
Water: 
No
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

These two excellent dispersed camping areas are just down the road from one another in Ocala National Forest, so it makes sense to group them together in one section. You can always start at one area and if you don’t find a site you like, it’s just a five minute drive to the other. Both Lake Mary and Trout Pond have great opportunities for boating, fishing, and of course, free camping. Lake Mary tends to be a bit busier, while Trout Pond is more secluded. And at just over an hour from Orlando, these camping areas are perfect for a weekend getaway.

Both Lake Mary and Trout Pond camping areas can be reached from FR591 (14-03). Near Lake Mary, you’ll find a handful of sites along the main road and more off the spur road. You cannot camp directly next to the lake, and instead you’ll need to set up a few hundred yards away. Keep in mind that the road can be rugged and sandy and should only be attempted by 4WD vehicles. This is a tent-only area and the rangers do enforce this rule on occasion.

There are just a few sites at Trout Pond and they can be reached by taking the spur road off FR591 and then turning right at the fork. This road can also be quite rugged and sandy, so proceed with caution. Sites are pretty private, and although you’ll likely hear some traffic from hunters passing through the area, they are otherwise very quiet. Be advised that there is a four-night limit for camping at Trout Pond.

You can’t go wrong with a camping trip to either Lake Mary or Trout Pond!

Cumpressco Primitive Campground

Restrooms: Portable toilet
Water: 
Non-potable only
Crowds:
 Moderate
Map

The final free camping area on our list is Cumpressco Primitive Campground, which is located in the Green Swamp West Tract Wilderness Preserve, which is managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). It’s situated less than an hour northeast of Tampa, and just fifteen minutes from Dade City. The campground is divided into equestrian and non-equestrian areas. In addition to fantastic camping and horseback riding opportunities, the Green Swamp West Tract Wilderness Preserve also has 65 miles of hiking and biking trails, a boat ramp with access to the Withlacoochee River, and seasonal hunting possibilities.

The campground is spacious, with shady sites, fire pits, and picnic tables throughout. It’s located next to a grassy pasture, giving the area a nice country feel. Although there are water taps at the campground, it’s important to note that the water is not safe to drink. There are portable toilets on site, or vault toilets at the nearby Ashley Campground. The area is big rig friendly, but can get hard to turn around the further back you go. The Ashley Campground is another good free option in the area, but we like the more wild feel of Cumpressco.

As with all campgrounds managed by the SWFWMD, you’ll need to make a free reservation to camp at the Cumpressco Campground. This no-cost process can be done quickly and easily online. It’s best to print your reservation confirmation or write down the details to bring with you when you go. With your reservation, you’ll receive a gate code to access the campground.

Looking to find more dispersed campsites? Check out The Dyrt PRO to get campsite reviews, offline maps, and the best map layers for finding public dispersed camping!

Our Top Camping App – The Dyrt PRO

The Dyrt PRO

Looking to find more free, dispersed camping?

The Dyrt PRO is our favorite resource for planning your trip. Use the custom map layers to find public land, download offline maps, and navigate to your perfect dispersed campsite. Highly recommended!

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan a great dispersed camping trip in Florida.

Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!

Looking for more dispersed camping content? Don’t forget to check out our other state specific dispersed camping guides:

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